You mentioned something about a closet…?

The-Dark-Side-of-Midnight-1984THE DARK SIDE OF MIDNIGHT

0.5 Stars  1984/89m

A.k.a. The Creeper

Director/Writer/Producer/Star/Caterer/Janitor: Wes Olsen / Cast: James Moore, Wes Olsen, Dave Bowling, Sandy Schemmel, Rocky Jackson, Susan Frawley, Dan Myers.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “He broke her neck and crushed her skull with his bare hands – we’re dealing with a psychopath.”

To understand the experience that was watching The Dark Side of Midnight would be like trying to glean from somebody what it was like to survive something truly, truly terrible. However, if you go on to the film’s IMDb page there are a couple of posts from people who were in it, one of which states that the lead actress burst into tears when she saw it, and the composer walked out of the screening, never to return.

Doling out a half-star rating is as rare as a full five stars, as it should be in the bell curve that is film appreciation, although The Dark Side of Midnight made me laugh more than a few times, there’s no way in hell I could ever give it anything more.

dsom1A girl is murdered by a fiend hiding in her closet. The police investigate. The local mayor wants stories played down in case it effects the possibility of a university being built in their small town.

Soon after, a babysitter is stalked at her job, but survives, which is more than can be said for the six-year-old boy she was looking after, who is found in his bed with his throat cut, the only gore in the entire film! A dead child.

This is what ensues when the lead detective and hotshot profiler guy go to interview her:

  • Girl: “There was a man in the closet.”
  • Detective: “What closet?”
  • Girl: “Timmy’s closet. Timmy told me there was a man living inside his closet. I didn’t believe him. There was a man in his closet.”
  • Detective: “Timmy told you that a man lived in his closet?”
  • Girl: “Yes.”

1965453The mayor, pissed that the murder of a six-year-old makes the papers, devises an evil plan to get rid of the police chief so he can frame some homeless schmuck and secure the green light for the college build: He fakes a fall saying his sister is at death’s door in Canada.

Of course, the killer, now known to be The Creeper, wanted in Detroit for twelve murders, strikes again after the arrest, then goes after the chief’s daughter, who is dating the hotshot profiler guy.

Eventually, profiler guy’s knowledge of typewriters leads him to the killer, who lives in a small scale balsa wood model house and, well, y’all know how flammable that shit is.

The Dark Side of Midnight was made for around $10,000, which reportedly came from the director, who cast himself as hotshot profiler guy, and is a pure exercise in ineptitude at every level. Local theater actors with little to no in-front-of-camera experience shout their dreadful dialogue, move their eyebrows and bob their heads a lot, amplifying every nuance in case the people at the back can’t see it – oh wait, it’s a film, not a play.

“You can’t come bursting into my office!” yells the mayor at somebody who just calmly walked through an already open door.

What else? Oh yeah, nearly everyone in the film has a mustache:

dsom-mustaches…even the killer’s rocking one!

dsom-killer…which makes it all look a bit like some gay porn film gone wrong…

dsom-gaypornVery possibly the go-to worst movie ever made, with absolutely no redeeming qualities beyond how bad it manages to be, and that sweet exchange of dialogue about the fucking closet.

10 Final Boys We Like

Final Boys are never going to be as awesome as Final Girls, hence we don’t love them like we love Final Girls. But these guys did quite well with the job at hand…

devon-sawa-fd1Alex Browning (Devon Sawa)
Final Destination (2000)

High school inbetweener Alex is thrust into the shoes of Final Boy-dom when he has an out-of-the-blue premonition the flight he and his French Club will explode minutes after takeoff. Saving himself and six others doesn’t make him the hero, but instead, as he puts it “everyone in my school thinks I’m a freak.”

Perhaps not being a straight-up slasher film is what allows three of the five Final Destination films to work with a male lead. Sawa’s Average Joe is appealing because of the way he teeters between both social groups and his own sanity.

Death-valley-1982-movie-1Billy (Peter Billingsley)
Death Valley (1982)

Just as Danielle Harris would become the pre-teen final girl in the later Halloween sequels, little Milky Bar kid Peter Billingsley was the unlikely hero of strange way-out-west slasher flick Death Valley, when a family vacation is foiled by him literally meandering into a murder scene, finding a trinket the killer wants, and finding himself stalked by said loon in pursuit of it.

Billingsley was already an accomplished child actor by the time he was in this (and also older than he looked) and so isn’t cursed by overacting and, even better, lacks the brattiness usually on show when kids are front and center.

elm4-300xJesse Walsh (Mark Patton)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Jesse’s family move into 1428 Elm Street five years after Nancy Thompson lived there and he soon finds his dreams invaded by Freddy, who wants to possess him and turn him into an agent of death.

Freddy’s Revenge could well be the most analysed slasher film of the 80s, and Jesse is commonly seen as a repressed gay, whose body Freddy wants, and only a kiss from a girl can save him etc… If you watch the awesome documentary Never Sleep Again, Mark Patton is a little embarrassed by his performance but, if nothing else, at least they tried something new rather than just retread the original film, and he’s an important part of that, thus fully deserving his place here.

burning-alfredAlfred (Brian Backer)
The Burning (1981)

Included more out of relevance than respect, Alfred was possibly the first final boy in a big screen slasher. At Camp Stonewater, he’s the nerdy misfit, who spies on girls while they shower, plays weird pranks, and whines a lot. He’s also the only one to suspect someone is prowling around the peripheries of the camp. Naturally, nobody believes him until he finds a couple of dead bodies and proves it.

The Burning is already quite a misogynistic outing before shoving aside the notion of a final girl and putting Alfred into the role instead. He’s essentially saved by the hunky male counsellor, as would a girl in the same situation it seems, meaning his gender is far more incidental as he adds nothing that a girl wouldn’t. None of this is the fault of Backer, however, who put in a great performance as Mark Ratner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

tumblr_m6yz8w2VUd1r9wksko1_400Alex Grey (Tim Conlon)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989)

Another Alex and quite similar to his Final Destination namesake. This Alex, a sub-Ferris Bueller type in both looks and attitude, has a hot girlfriend but no direction until he somehow becomes the boy toy of undead Prom Queen from hell Mary Lou Maloney. For a while, she improves his social standing no end, but once a hell bitch, always a hell bitch…

Prom Night III‘s comic-horror baseline works well for Conlon’s likable schtick as the put-upon hero: He’s witty and funny, being pulled in two directions, one by an angel, the other by the devil.

hellbent-shining_0Eddie (Dylan Fergus)
Hellbent (2004)

The ‘first gay slasher film’ featured a masked muscle man scything gay chaps around West Hollywood during Halloween night celebrations, when everyone is in costume and a hot guy in nothing but tight pants and a horned mask won’t rouse suspicion.

At the center of the mania is civilian police employee Eddie, who just wants a decent night out with his friends, all of whom soon start falling victim to the loon. Usual hetero conventions are simply flipped in this case, and Eddie runs and hides with veritable Jamie Lee gusto, saved at one point by the virtue of having a false eye!

wolf-creek-2-03Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr)
Wolf Creek 2 (2013)

British surf bum Paul is minding his own business when he’s embroiled in a nightmare of Mick Taylor’s making, stopping to rescue a girl who has escaped the bushman’s clutches for long enough to make it to the road. After she’s killed, Paul has a target on his back and Taylor will stop at nothing to reclaim his victim.

Both Wolf Creek films feature male sole survivors, although the first one has little to do with anything the guy does, and Paul is put through all the usual torture that final girls endure: Everyone he approaches for help is killed, he’s captured, strapped to a chair, tortured (by song and weapon), escapes, but does that thing where he scuppers the opportunity to finalise the killer’s exit from this mortal coil… So much for all those who say final boys would be better. And the British character lived! Whoop!

Weston-in-Wishcraft-michael-weston-12955368-608-336Brett Bumpers (Michael Weston)
Wishcraft (2001)

High school dork Brett receives an enchanted bull’s dick through the mail with a note saying it grants three wishes, which he eventually discovers to be true. Meanwhile, classmates of his are being picked off by a cloaked killer. Are the two connected? Duh.

The rise of the nerd theme in Wishcraft is satisfying on its own, even though Brett isn’t initially in any danger, he’s soon forced into combat with the unmasked killer and, with one wish left, ascends to hero level pretty quickly.

Andy-Barclay-chucky-5551046-700-383Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent/Justin Whalin)
Child’s Play 1-3 (1988-1992)

Poor Andy Barclay cannot rid himself of final boy duties no matter what he does. As the first human to discover the secret of possessed Good Guy doll Chucky, Andy is thus the only one who can be a vessel for the killer’s soul. After surviving round one, a new foster home cannot provide shelter in Child’s Play 2, and even a military academy provides no refuge in the third film…

Unlike Billy in Death Valley, hero duties could only go to a child in this franchise, and Vincent did extremely well with the material, even better was his cameo in Curse of Chucky. He’s at his best in Child’s Play 2 with the assistance of a teen foster sister who fulfills the legwork and screaming quota.

tommyTommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman/John Shepard/Thom Mathews)
Friday the 13th Parts IV-VI (1984-1986)

In The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is just a monster-loving kid who has the bad luck of living by Crystal Lake and ends up – with big sister Trish – bringing down Jason who, by that point, had murdered a good 30 schmucks over the previous few days. In A New Beginning, Tommy is older, traumatised by what happened and sent to a halfway house where a hockey-masked psycho goes to task chopping up his new friends. In Jason Lives, an undecided amount of time later, Tommy returns to Crystal Lake to burn Jason’s corpse, but ends up accidentally resurrecting him and spends the rest of the movie trying to undo his error.

While Feldman as the horror-nut was a logical move to ‘end’ the series on in 1984, Thom Mathews is easily my favourite incarnation of the character, a complete 360 on Shepard’s brooding portrayal, Tommy ’86 is like a totally different guy, replete with comic timing and a touch of slapstick to his ever-doomed attempts to stop Jason.

But, in terms of final boys through history, the name Tommy Jarvis is probably at the top of the tree.



2 Stars  1991/85m

“When fantasy becomes a deadly reality.”

Director/Writer: W. Douglas Robertson / Writer: Kurt Andrew Swauger / Cast: Brien Blakely, Blake Pickett, Ethan Adler, Brad Hanks, Leslee Lacey, Bently Tittle, Tim Hubbard.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lyrics: “In a haunted house on a Hauntedween, is the biggest party there’s ever been, it’s time for rocking heads to roll, we’re just dying to start the show.”

There are some things you should know before approaching HauntedWeen in any way, shape, or form. Firstly, it was shot as something of a student project in a Kentucky college town. Secondly, many of the actors and extras were students and/or locals. Thirdly, the budget was clearly not high.

These things being so, I still had an awesome time watching HauntedWeen and, sadly, to convey said awesomeness, SPOILERS are necessary.

What’s the story then? A Halloween walk-through house of horror thing attracts folks. Ticket-collector Eddie is told he’s “too young to work the house” by the MC, who then goes home even though he’s just that second let some people in. Eddie sneaks into the house and finds a lost young girl he then torments until she impales herself. He caps it off by decapitating her and flees the scene. His Mom soon finds him and tells him they’ve got to go.

Behind you!

Behind you!

Beside you!

Beside you!

Twenty years later – never nineteen, never twenty-one – Old Mom keels over from a heart attack and Big Eddie decides to return to town.

Meanwhile, local Frat house Sigma Phi has learned that it’s about to be kicked out of the Greek system thingy for paying too little into the membership. Or something. They need money fast. Hmm…

Bizarrely, instead of HauntedWeen unfolding how we expect, given that Frat President Kurt and his suspect-robot girlfriend Mel stumbled upon The Old Burber House. Instead, Eddie goes to the Frat house and gives them the fucking keys, telling them it’d be a great idea! A goal-oriented psycho.

With a poster this awesome, why would anyone miss it?

With a poster this awesome, why would anyone miss it?

Kids of various dreadful fashion woes fix up the place and camp out. After dark, one of them tells the story of the Eddie-vs-Little-Girl incident, while two others go skinny dipping. Randomly, HauntedWeen tosses out a pretty good camera move, with the dude’s body pinned to a tree, it pans across nicely and adjusts focus to his girlfriend entering the lake. Very Friday the 13th.

tree-guyThe next night – assumed to be Halloween, though nobody ever mentions it – the kids put on their show. Locals come, scream unconvincingly, and Eddie grabs a few laggers for a special live edition. While teens scream “Don’t you people understand!? It’s not fake! He’s really killing us! Help us!” the audience bays for blood and their wishes are granted accordingly.

Eventually, Kurt and Mel, who’ve been having relationship problems (“you don’t pay enough attention to me!”) are in jeopardy, it takes one random patron to shriek “oh my God – it’s real!” for a stampede of people to flee the house, all to the poppy beats of an 80s aerobic workout bop.

HauntedWeen fails on almost every level in terms of horror: It’s neither scary, nor suspenseful; The gore is sloppy and tame; The title alludes to a supernatural element that does not exist; Most of the main cast survive, including the super annoying comic relief guy:

hanksSo it’s bad in almost every conceivable way, why haven’t I rated it one star? The short answer is hair.

Most people credit the 1980s for being the decade of bad clothes and hair, but it was still around in 1991, especially in Bowling Green, Kentucky, it would seem. I loved the early 90s, a shitfest for slasher films though they may have been, it was a great era.

Here’s a few of the delights I found in HauntedWeen:

bangles-wannabePost-Bangles super coif and pastel to match. I hope she played bass in a high school garage band. The guy behind her had a mullet but moved too fast to capture.

mullet-1…but here’s another mullet a couple of minutes later. Eeeeshk.

earrings-ladyThe lesser remembered coral reef look of the early 90s.

mullet-specsThis guy yells “Hang ‘em! Yaaaah!” during the fake-not-fake killings. Then about ninety-seconds later the same piece of footage is shown again, so we get double the mullet n’ mustache treatment. Yay us.

badhatandbracefaceMy favourites, Bad Hat and Braceface: These two kids spur on the killer in maniacal glee. She with her Wilson Phillips bowler, he with a penchant for massively overacting. I’d guess they’re approximately my age now, gotta get on Facebook and befriend.

In conclusion – see this film.

Murder, She Wrote: The Prep School Years

deadlylessonsDEADLY LESSONS

2.5 Stars  1983/94m

“Kiss the girls and make them sigh. Hunt them down and watch them die.”

Director: William Wiard / Writer: Jennifer A. Miller / Cast: Donna Reed, Larry Wilcox, Diane Franklin, Ally Sheedy, David Ackroyd, Renée Jones, Bill Paxton, Vicki Kriegler, Nancy Cartwright, Deena Freeman, Sally Klein, Donald Hotton.

Body Count: 3

Laughter Lines: “If we get caught we’re dead… Sorry, poor choice of words.”

Look. At. That. Cast. Bill Paxton! Ally Sheedy! Diane Franklin! Sissy from Jason Lives! The future voice of Bart Simpson! Deadly Lessons is the TV movie that just gives, gives, gives!

The first words uttered tell us all we need to know: “I’ve never been to a boarding school before, but this is one of the best schools in the country and they’re giving me a free scholarship! I just hope the other girls like me!”

These come from Stephanie (Franklin) to her cab driver as they approach the prestigious Starkwater Hall prep, where she’s joining the summer session early along with a small group of other girls who need to buck up their ideas.


Ally Sheedy, Vicki Kriegler, and Diane Franklin go corpse spotting

No sooner does Stephanie arrive, than one of bitchy girls is found drowned in the lake. Everyone says it’s an accident bar local detective Russ Kemper, who doesn’t take kindly to headmistress Miss Wade’s insistence that the school is not damaged by bad press.

Stephanie, meanwhile, begins to play detective, thanks in part to her obsession with a Clue-esque boardgame called Evidence. Suspects include the horse riding teacher, the stable boy (Paxton), other teachers, the requisite creepy handyman, plus all the girls who hated the victim, and victim No. 2…

There’s not a spot of blood to be seen in all of Deadly Lessons, it really is as if we’re watching Jessica Fletcher’s youthful memoirs for all the red herrings, questionable performances, and absence of violence. All that was missing was that judgmental shake of the head thing she did after the killer freely admitted how and why they did it – although in this case, the mystery is not so easy to solve.


A pre-Simpsons Nancy Cartwright and pre-Jason Renée Jones

Without a doubt, the primary appeal is in the cast, from Sheedy’s pre-Breakfast Club rich girl, to Nancy Cartwright’s (Bart!!) unwanted over-eater, though you wonder how many highlight it on their respective resumes. This could be shown on TV any Saturday afternoon and cause zero offense. An interesting one time affair, but not a class you’d want to repeat.

No home video release (beyond a German one under the name High School Killer) has surfaced, hence the significant lack of artwork.

Blurbs-of-interest: Paxton was also in Night Warning, Mortuary, and later Club Dread; Jones was perky camp counsellor Sissy in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

deadkidsDEAD KIDS

3 Stars


“Good kids turned killers!”

A.k.a. Strange Behavior; Human Experiments; Small Town Massacre

Director/Writer: Michael Laughlin / Writer: Bill Condon / Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis, Arthur Dignam, Dey Young, Marc McClure, Scott Brady, Charles Lane, Beryl Te Wiata, Jim Boelson.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Here are the files from the college: 135 overweight girls.”

Strange Behavior is probably the best known title for this New Zealandianianian production, but Dead Kids is just too good a name. It’s like the producers thought “why bother with a calendar date or some schmancy As Night Falls pretense… let’s just call it what it is!”

Anyway, this is anything but your average guy-with-a-weapon fare, although things begin with a teenager in a house when the power goes out, but it soon morphs into a sorta Frankenstein Meets Friday the 13th situation, as the local teen populace of Galesburg, Illinois (though clearly NZ) who have volunteered in a weird mind-control experiment, are programmed to kill various locals.

Why this is happening isn’t crystal (lake) clear, but from the trivial dialogue scenes, we can piece together just enough to implicate an eeeeeevil scientist who was thought to be dead, probably taking revenge on the most influential families in town (mayor, police chief etc). There are more characters than necessary, many of whom appear only for a couple of lines before never again contributing to the story but are considered (by the credits at least) to be the main players

There are still some neat scenes and a good, if obvious, twist. The blood flows like wine at a Strictly Come Dancing season premiere party for 40-something women, most notably when the neighbourhood babysitter-cum-busybody drops in to make a snack for an 11-year-old, whom she finds in the bathtub being carved up by a teenage girl. Kudos for the malice – not many films would have the stones to show that on screen.

Look out also for the cringe-tastic dance routine at the party, which rivals any of the dreadful moves that Jamie Lee Curtis and Casey Stevens donned in Prom Night.

A quirky, weird experience of a film, but one worth seeing either way.

Blurb-of-interest: Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen!) was in Pandemonium.

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